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Driven: VW Polo gets price cut and more kit

Subtly better: While the exterior has hardly been touched, the updated Polo gets new-generation engines, upgraded in-car tech and safety systems.

Korea and Japan put on notice as VW goes after light car segment with latest Polo


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19 Aug 2014

VOLKSWAGEN’S heavily upgraded Polo has landed in Australia with a simplified line-up, new all-turbo petrol engines and a richer features list including updated in-car technology and more advanced safety systems.

However, the introduction of the updated series spells the end of Polo’s most fuel-miserly model, with a diesel-engined version of the city hatchback falling from the line-up as the efficiency of the range’s petrol engines catches up.

Despite a long list of improvements to the Polo, the entry-level 66TSI Trendline will sell from $15,990 driveaway – but only for the next three months as the car readies for a jump to $16,290 plus on-road costs.

According to VW, the latter is still $700 less than the recommended run-out price of the previous Polo.

For now, the front-wheel-drive Polo will be available in only two grades: the turbocharged 1.2-litre 66TSI Trendline fitted with the default five-speed manual gearbox or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission and the 81TSI Comfortline using a higher tune of the same engine, but fitted with a six-speed manual or optional seven-speed DSG.

Standard features on the Trendline include an automatic engine idle-stop function with brake energy recuperation, air-conditioning, cruise control, twin halogen headlights and LED daytime running lights, remote power window function, heated wing mirrors with LED turn indicators, flat-bottomed steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, variable luggage floor height, chilled glovebox and a full-size spare wheel.

The Trendline uses a turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine producing 66kW between 4400-5400rpm and 160Nm from 1400-3500rpm, up 3kW and 28Nm on the 1.4-litre naturally aspirated four-pot it replaces.

Volkswagen claims an average combined fuel economy figure of 4.8 litres per 100km in both the manual and DSG versions.

The Comfortline adds 15-inch alloy wheels, a front centre armrest with storage compartment, audio and telephone controls mounted on the leather-clad steering wheel, height-adjustable front passenger’s seat, multi-function trip computer with speed warning, and ‘comfort’ cloth upholstery.

It also comes with 1.2-litre turbo-four petrol engine, but developing 81kW from 4600-5600rpm, gaining 4kW over the 1.2-litre it replaces. While the 175Nm of torque from 1400-4000rpm is the same as the previous engine, it now arrives 150rpm lower in the rev range.

Combined average fuel consumption is 4.9L/100km with the manual, while the DSG is slightly better at 4.8L/100km.

Also standard, and new to the Polo, is Volkswagen’s latest modular infotainment system, straight from the Golf Mk7.

It features a five-inch touchscreen with proximity sensor, Bluetooth connectivity, music streaming and six speakers.

Driver Comfort and Sport packages are $1500 options on the Comfortline.

Driver Comfort brings adaptive cruise control, climate-control air-conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera, a driver fatigue system that detects how tired you are from your steering behaviour, and advanced collision avoidance systems including ‘Front Assist’ and ‘City Emergency Braking’.

A ‘Multi-Collision Braking System’ that automatically applies the brakes after a collision is also fitted standard.

The Sport pack includes 17-inch alloy wheels, lowered suspension, dark-tinted rear glass, front foglights and tyre pressure indicators.

Moving up from the 66TSI Trendline, the 81TSI Comfortline in manual form is priced from $18,290 – $950 less than the run-out price of the model it replaces.

Adding the seven-speed DSG to either model adds $2500.

The sporty GTI variant was not at the local Polo launch in Brisbane this week – that will arrive next year.

The Polo is built on Volkswagen's PQ26 platform, and uses a conventional arrangement of MacPherson struts up front and a twist beam suspension at the rear. New to Polo, however, is a lighter and more direct electro-mechanical power rack-and-pinion steering system, replacing an electro-hydraulic system.

The exterior of the updated Polo has remained almost untouched. The front bumpers now have a chrome-effect line running the length of the lower air intake, while redesigned grille adds more chrome-effect strips. At the rear, there are new-look tail-lights.

Changes inside the cabin have also been kept to a minimum. Most obvious is the new touchscreen and infotainment system, but there are subtle changes to the rest of the centre console including the new air-conditioning controls.

The instrument cluster has also been redesigned with what VW calls 3-D tubes.

The three-spoke steering wheel is new, too, and borrowed from the Golf.

According to Volkswagen, the refreshed Polo is cheaper than when this fifth generation of the car arrived in Australia in 2010.

Volkswagen Group Australia managing director John White said the price cuts were designed to maintain the sales momentum of the previous model.

“We’re doing it (keeping prices low) because it’s going to drive more sales,” Mr White said. “We’d like to maintain the current increase, and sustain it.

From there I don’t have specific numbers because it depends on how we ramp out and ramp up.

“We want to be a serious player in this segment.”

Mr White said Polo had increased sales by between 11-12 per cent over the past few years, and year-to-date sales of the light car to the end of July were up by 20 per cent over the previous year.

The light segment for cars priced from less than $25,000 is dominated by Hyundai’s i20, with sales to the end of July numbering 8721. In contrast, second-placed Mazda2 is at 7633 sales, with Toyota Yaris close behind with 7617. Polo is in ninth place with 3608 sales.

Mr White said he did not feel pressured by Korean and Japanese competitors, but recognised there were customers to be gained in the segment.

“Picture a bell curve as your segment and you want to get as much as the left side of the curve as possible – you have to be more aggressive and you’ve got to go after as much of the segment as possible,” he said.

“Whether the Japanese or the Koreans are already there doesn’t matter. The fact of the matter is it’s there and that’s a segment of the consumers that we want to attract and get them into the Volkswagen brand.

“Once you get them into the Volkswagen brand you know that a certain percentage of them – usually over half – are going to stay loyal to the brand and stay in the brand and move up.” Polo, Mr White said, primarily attracted two types of buyers.

“There’s the entry buyer and it skews to an older buyer who drives a Volkswagen already but is maybe buying a car for their son (or) daughter, and they’re bringing the next generation back into the product,” he said.

As for how many Volkswagen can sell, Mr White said it all depended on supply.

“Right now we need to ramp up production,” he said. “The good news is that the car is built in South Africa so that my pipeline is much shorter than it is from Germany.

“We can get the cars here inside of 30 days as opposed to Germany, which is 70 days,” he said.

Mr White also said that lowering the Polo’s price had not come at the cost of equipment.

“It’s not only about lowering the price, but giving more value with higher-specified cars, making it like a smaller version of the Golf,” he said.

“You’re buying a German automobile and the drive, experience and finish which come with that.”2014 Volkswagen Polo pricing*
66TSI Trendline$16,290
66TSI Trendline (a)$18,790
81TSI Comfortline$18,290
81TSI Comfortline (a)$20,790
*Excludes on-road costs.

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